When Life Laughs at Your "Nevers"
We've all done it—looked at other people’s choices and habits and declared, "that will never be me". Whether it's something we feel doesn't fit our personality, isn’t one of our God-given talents, or isn’t a skill set we think we’ll ever need, we mentally and naively mark these as “not applicable” and move on with our lives. And after we’ve so confidently determined what we are and what we aren’t, what we do and what we don’t do, life throws us a curveball that forces us to either adapt or it strikes us out.
No one uses “never” language by accident. “Nevers” are always thoughts and declarations with intentionality behind them. So, life listens, life laughs, life moves on, but eventually, life comes back around. It just has an irksome way of revisiting the "nevers" in a “challenge accepted" sort of way. It has for me in several areas and as with everything in life, it’s always a choice—rise to the challenge or continue on in mundanity (which obviously isn’t an option).
So, I’ve found that the best response to life throwing me for a loop is to remember the OODA loop—Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. The OODA loop originated as a military strategy for rapid decision making, so it is much more complex than a simple habit forming technique, but it is effective as such nonetheless. I didn’t learn about the OODA loop approach until very recently, but I realized I had been implementing it for years before I even knew what it was.
Ever since I was given my first alarm clock, I had declared myself unfit for mornings. Growing up, I was never an early riser and even into my adult years, I would wake up with just enough time in the mornings to get ready and get out the door. Because of this habit, I utilized my nights for more productive things like working out, practicing, and reading, but when I got married, I realized I couldn’t continue with that schedule if I wanted to spend quality time with my husband in the evenings. So, I had to make time elsewhere in my day for these other activities that were also important to me. To put it in the OODA loop perspective:
- Observe: I saw that there was a conflict of priorities and I couldn't fit everything that was important to me in the current set of hours I was giving myself.
- Orient: I filtered that observation through my own values and experiences which told me I needed to keep quality time with my husband a priority.
- Decide: I determined that I needed to adapt my schedule to utilize the extra morning hours to continue accomplishing my goals in other areas.
- Act: I started waking up earlier every weekday. I moved my workouts to 5am and used the extra time for reading.
Voilà! Suddenly, I’m a morning person, simply because I chose to be and acted consistently on that commitment. At first, it took a concerted effort to stay the course, but over time, it got easier.
The idea here is to keep the observe-orient-decide-act cycle looping so you’re constantly assessing where you’re currently at, where you should be, and what you need to do to keep moving forward and growing. I've gone through this same decision cycle multiple times in my life. In addition to now being a morning person, it has also made me a runner, a writer, a creative professional, and even an obsessive note-taker—all things I declared I would never do or be, yet all things that have shaped who I am and have made me better at what I do.
So the next time you catch yourself reciting your “never” vows, just remember that Life is never without humor or surprise. Sometimes, life throwing you for a loop is life throwing you a bone—an invitation to be better than you were yesterday. So, don’t fight it. Let time slow down in those moments and let it reshape your perspective and reorient your values. Then decide on the best course of action and ACT.